that now I do not like to think of maggots in his eyes

hopkin greenfrog and i argued abt betjeman in the comments to this post, and tim asked “Did he ever liked anything modernist (art lit music architecture whatever)”? So when i wz at a loose end at mum&dad s’s, i speedread bevis hillier’s YOUNG BETJEMAN, and found out quite a lot that surprised me

mainly that he was workin on the staff of ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW during its modernist internationalist prosyletising phase (late 20s, early 30s), and certainly definitely wrote (unsigned) captions etc pro le corb**et al, whatever his own feelings here*, and wz – tho already well off on his retrieval of neglected victoriana jag – very close pals indeed w.some of the writers and editors who were most fanatically modernist (admittedly some of them recanted later: or rather, became hostile to the general thoughtless triumphalist routinisation of what wz still after all romantic and embattled in the late 20s)

but i’m not sure that i know the answer to tim’s q entirely even yet: JB hid his strongest feelings in a layer of extreme contrarian perversity from the outset (fairly classic case of hipster irony masking unironic passion); eg he wound up his englit tutor (the humourless and anxious c.s.lewis) by insisting that LORD ALFRED DOUGLAS (viz wilde’s bosie) wz a grebter poet than shakespeare (lewis returned the favour by not letting JB graduate and giving him useless job references)

*strict modernists (among architects) afterwards came to feel he was always a sly traitor in the camp, but JB’s early sense that big business and artistic celebrity and show-off showpiece art were already always distorting the dream of modernism seems more prescient than reactionary

in ref his endless wooing of the aristocracy etc, there wz always a distinct element of “haha if these clowns accept me then more fool them and their so-called social standards” alongside the very obvious snobbisme: hillier’s stories veer from the ghastly (worst of evelyn waugh-type suckiness) to the genuinely funny to the fascinatingly alien (eg how TINY tween-wars “society” was; everyone really did know everyone else)

**of course le corb’s attitude to high modernism was conflicted also, despite its being his meal-ticket for decades

so in short i am undecided: i still suspect JB wd have found routinised brainless prince-charles-style “betjemanist” reverence very tiresome and dumb – he most often expressed his admiration by poking fun – and he really really did prefer the overlooked and the forgotten, which of course his own successful rediscovery campaigns was destroying

re john piper: piper wrote a piece in AR declaring the benign-neglect approach to ruins (as in france) way superior (from tha painter’s POV) to the over-fussy clean-it-up/shore-it-up care more commonly found in the UK back then (and i think still)

re pevsner’s famous belief that arts-and-crafts architecture prefigured modernist archictecture: betjeman was lesws convinced – he played along, but with a distinct teasing edge sometimes, in ref the more irredeemably non-modernist arts-and-crafters (he had a distinctly ambivalent love-hate thing goin w.arts-and-crafts, courtesy his distinctly ambivalent love-hate thing w.his dad the bespoke furniture craftsman)